PJ and I recently saw The Help, starring Viola Davis and Emma Stone as a black maid in the 1960s South and the white woman who helps her tell her story of racial prejudice and outrage. Here’s the trailer:

I really enjoyed this movie a lot. It’s definitely a crowd-pleaser, and I thought it was much more sophisticated than some of the stories I’d read about it seemed to suggest. In particular, this movie is not about a woman who saves the helpless black people. Not to give too much away, but a) she doesn’t save anyone — they save her, and b) the maids are definitely not saved at the end of the tale.

Viola Davis is amazing in this movie. Her character is the heart and soul of the film, and her style of acting is so natural and realistic that it makes her character all the more effective on-screen. Stone is also good, but she doesn’t really have a lot to do other than be the “straight” character.

Two supporting performances also stand out: Octavia Spencer as the sassy maid, Minny Jackson, and Jessica Chastain as the wealthy, but ostracized Celia Foote. Both are great comedy performances, which provides excellent relief from the seriousness of the racial tensions that are the film’s primary focus. I really like the way the movie deals with the historical moment but with humor and human interest rather than just with seriousness and tragedy.

It was also great to see Cicely Tyson in a brief but pivotal role. She has the most amazingly beautiful eyes!

Davis, Spencer, and Chastain all deserve Oscar nominations for their work here, and I expect that the movie will receive several more nominations as well: Picture, Adapted Screenplay, Set Decoration, and Costumes at the very least.

It’s an excellent movie, one of the year’s best so far.